Kát'a Kabanová - Opera Holland Park, 24 July 2009
Something's been missing from Opera Holland Park this season. Something you don't usually associate with opera, so I only realised when I looked back at my post on their excellent 2007 Jenůfa.
No more surprise duets from screeching screaming peacocks!
Have they been tidied away to a far corner of the park? Had their beaks taped? Or have their scraggy carcases been put to more creative use? Who knows?
Many of the cast and crew from the rudely-interrupted Jenůfa were back again this year for more Janáček in this new production from Olivia Fuchs. By turns mystifying and overly bleeding obvious, it is at least clearly and confidently acted by the principals.
The set is simple, stretching over the full width of the stage. In one corner is a wire gazebo that Katya paws to escape in the prelude, later revealed to be - of course - the 'cage' that is her home. Paths twist over a painted river and no-one dares step outside their boundaries - until Boris leads Katya off the path. And of course 'off the path'. Surfboards are suspended behind - waves, clouds, leaves? Not a clue. The chorus hang around like flies at a picnic, giving us plenty of time to admire their gorgeous costumes (I can't imagine any other purpose for the weird mass zombie shuffle that ended the show).
The opera isn't long and the set doesn't change, so I'm not sure why there was an interval before the last act. It defused the dramatic tension, and much more importantly (now that Holland Park Cafe is closing at 8.30) there was nothing for greedy people (raises hand) to do but stuff themselves with costly designer peanuts at the fancy OHP bar. But perhaps that was the idea.
The tiny Anne Sophie Duprels made a riveting Katya, all her warmth and passion gradually crushed by her cold, reserved husband (a blustery Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts) and her vicious stepmother (Anne Mason, needle-sharp). Tom Randle's troubled Boris seemed pretty unappealing to me, but perhaps that was the idea - Katya is so starved of affection she'll settle for anything.
Some of the evening's best singing, clear and gleaming, came from Patricia Orr as Varvara and Andrew Rees as Kudrjáš.
Had the orchestra benefited from a few more rehearsals than usual? They played vividly and accurately for Stuart Stratford, and with enormous confidence. It was hard to believe this was only the first night.
And here's a video. Or at least a chat with pics. Director Olivia Fuchs and soprano Anne Sophie Duprels discuss the production:
And in an extraordinary policy turnaround, OHP capo di capi cher Mike ignores his own no-camera rule to bring us a tiny piece of the action. Not to mention a few exit interviews with satisfied customers'n'critics: